By Cody Gohl
Loneliness, isolation and stigma are all contributing factors to this rise.
When people discuss HIV/AIDS prevention, conversations almost always focus on educating young people about the importance of practicing safe sex and engaging in open dialogues about HIV status.
What these conversations often fail to acknowledge, however, is that an increasing number of those living with the virus are actually adults over the age of 50.
According to a 2013 report from the CDC, people aged 50 and older accounted for 26% of all Americans living with diagnosed or undiagnosed HIV infection.
While many of these people were diagnosed when they were younger and are now living full, healthy lives into old age, a growing contingent are contracting the disease after years of living HIV-free.
Sexual health campaigners have identified “prevention fatigue” as a contributing factor to the rise, which is when individuals start to engage in risky sexual behavior after years of practicing safe sex.
“Prevention fatigue can be a major issue,” explained Ian Howley, interim CEO of gay men’s health charity GMFA.
“Lots of gay men who grew up in the 80s and 90s who managed not to contract the virus have grown tired of constantly having sexual health messages thrown at them,” he continued. “It creates a barrier where these men tend to ignore new prevention methods, such as PrEP.”
Bernie McDade, who was diagnosed with HIV two years ago at the age of 64, told Gay Star News that as he got older, he believed himself to be more invincible against the virus.
“Yes, in the 80s, I used condoms more, when all the deaths were happening. Having managed to avoid getting it, as I got older I began to think of myself as a bit invincible. I became a bit more reckless and daredevil in my attitude,” he remarked.
Once he was diagnosed with HIV, he admitted to feeling “quite resigned,” adding that in a course for the newly-diagnosed, he was the “calmest in the group.”
“I was probably also the oldest in the group,” he concluded. “The young ones were much more emotional about it. I perhaps took it in my stride more.”
According to Howley, there are a host of other factors to consider aside from prevention fatigue.
“Loneliness and isolation can also play a factor as a reason why older gay and bisexual men are becoming HIV-positive,” he said.
“Other reasons can include the breakdown of a long term relationship–lots of gay and bisexual men don’t use condoms while being in a long term relationship. It can be difficult to go back to condoms after a long time away.”
Adrian Beaumont, coordinator for Terrence Higgins Trust, added, “Older people may find themselves newly single, following a divorce, break-up or bereavement in later life. Having not thought about HIV prevention for a long time, messages about condom use and regular testing may not be reaching this group of sexually active people.”
At the end of the day, Howley stresses that “HIV is a major issue for all ages and we need to make sure that our prevention messages reach all those who need it. This includes older gay and bisexual men.”
h/t: GSN & NNN